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The Cheapest Bubble Tea Can Cost up to $3: Here's Where

Part of the Google Local Guides Program, Alessio enjoys traveling and discovering new cultures and especially food traditions.

Bubble tea is one of the trendiest drinks of the moment. It consists of a tea or milk tea, flavored with syrups or special powders, which is finally served in a cup at the bottom of which are added flavored pearls and which burst in the mouth when sucked with the straw. In addition to popping boba, tapioca pearls can also be added: gummy spheres that are part of the most traditional bubble tea recipe, the one consisting only of tea and milk.

The Popularity of Bubble Tea

Bubble tea is a traditional Chinese beverage: the two areas of Taiwan and Hong Kong are those which have traditionally been recognized for the development of different bubble tea recipes, but in fact, bubble tea shops of all kinds can be found throughout China, as the drink is popular in every area of the Asian country. To understand the popularity of bubble tea in China, a comparison can be made with the spread of coffee in Italy.

Coffee in Italy

In Italy, it is traditional to offer someone a coffee as a sign of conviviality, when there is a moment to spend talking about something. It is also common to drink it after a meal and, of course, at breakfast. In Italy, it can happen to drink coffee not only at bars but also at restaurants, cinemas and hairdressing salons (in some of them there is the custom of offering coffee to waiting customers). Coffee, in Italy, is a drink that is at all effects part of daily life and can be found everywhere, even in vending machines located in railway stations, hospitals or offices.

Coffee in Italy is part of daily life

Coffee in Italy is part of daily life

Bubble Tea in China

Bubble tea in China is culturally considered just like coffee in Italy. It is a drink that you can find in a karaoke room, an internet cafe, a restaurant or a cinema bar. As well as, of course, in the shops specializing in bubble tea. It is a drink that is part of everyday life, while in the USA and Europe, bubble tea remains a niche, especially appreciated by young people. They like bubble tea not just because it's delicious - it's also fun to compose, it's a trendy drink, and, plus, ordering bubble tea can be one more excuse to hang out with friends.

A bubble tea in Hangzhou, Zhejiang, China

A bubble tea in Hangzhou, Zhejiang, China

The Price of a Bubble Tea

Bubble tea is a generally expensive drink. There are several reasons why bubble tea is expensive, but the common ones include: the price of raw materials such as syrups and boba (which are often imported from abroad, passing through multiple distribution chains), the fact several machines (requiring constant maintenance) are employed and the big use of disposable cups and straws (these, if made of biological material, can cost more than plastic ones). In the US, bubble tea can cost more than $6, depending on the type of drink ordered. In Italy, instead, you can expect to pay an average price between €4 and €5 for a good bubble tea. Despite this, bubble tea is not always an expensive beverage: there is a place in which bubble tea can cost up to $3: China. The country home of bubble tea, where you can find it on every corner, more or less like Starbucks in the USA. To be more specific, this was the price in 2020: it may be that it has increased in the last two years, but it remains a cheaper price on average than that in Europe and the USA. Moreover, in the rural areas of China price is generally even lower.

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A bubble tea ordered in a shop inside a railway station in China

A bubble tea ordered in a shop inside a railway station in China

Bubble Tea Isn’t the Only Cheaper Product in Its Hometown

Bubble tea is not the only example of a local product that costs less in its hometown than abroad. Also pizza in Naples costs generally between 4$ and 5$, while Italian coffee prices start from even just $1 for the espresso. As one can guess, a Neapolitan pizza outside Italy is more expensive, just like also an espresso coffee is generally higher in price. China makes no exception: there, coffee is really expensive and its average cost is around $3 per cup.

© 2022 Alessio Ganci

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